They were a group of six friends in their 20s who shared one-half of a sprawling house at 20 Noyes St. in Portland.

They worked at neighborhood cafes and restaurants. They shared an open-door policy when it came to friends stopping by.

Halloween night was no exception. Although there wasn’t any big Halloween party, people stopped by Friday night as they usually did, said Nathan Long, who had lived at the house for about 18 months.

Some of their guests stayed over. Long was in bed by 10 p.m. because he had to get up early for work. But instead of hearing a ringing alarm clock, he was awakened by smoke about 7 a.m. Saturday.

Long and his roommate, Kyle Bozeman, who lived in two of the three second-floor bedrooms, managed to make it out a back window and jump to safety from a porch roof.

Justin Irish, who lived in the bedroom on the first floor, wasn’t home.

But three of their roommates – Dave Bragdon Jr., who lived in a bedroom on the second floor, and Ashley Thomas and Nikki Finlay, who lived in each of two bedrooms on the third floor – did not make it out of the house.

Long said he suspects the other two people killed in the fire were friends of Bragdon who had wound up crashing there for the night.

He said he had no idea what might have caused the blaze.

Long said that when he first moved in to the house, it was not well-maintained by the tenants. But that all changed when Finlay moved in. During the past year, all of the former tenants left, except Long. Finlay got some of her friends, including her best friend, Thomas, to move in, and the tenor of the house was transformed.

“Nikki brought in a lot of people,” Long said.

He said the two women got everyone to clean up their act when it came to housekeeping. The house became a comfortable place where people would congregate in the first-floor living room and kitchen.

“They were adamant about keeping a nice-looking house,” Long said.

He said everyone just pitched in. They also shared “family” meals together. Rent was $2,100 a month, or $350 each.

“We were really close,” Long said.

He said the house had never looked better on Friday, after an extensive cleanup in preparation for a post-Halloween party they had planned for Saturday night.

They had stacked bags of debris on the porch to be hauled off later. They placed a couple of uncarved pumpkins there, too.

On Sunday, the pumpkins, which had fallen to the ground, were one of the few bright spots among the blackened remains.


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